Today’s shopping tip: buy your daughter a dark-skinned Barbie. The African-American beauties can be had for a song–at least at Walmart. Prices of the black dolls have been found in some stores to be cut way, way back–down to less than half of the white dolls.
When asked, a Walmart rep said that they were not trying to devalue the black doll; prices had simply been slashed on slower-moving items to make way for new spring inventory. And you know what? I believe him.
Believe me, I’m no fan of Wally World. But having sold CDs to them for many years, I do have an idea of how they work. Every piece of product is a number… nothing more, nothing less. If the fair-skinned Barbie failed to sell as much as her melanin-rich sister, she’d be the one perched on the clearance shelf. Obviously Walmart should be more sensitive, but do you really think an organization with such a shoddy employment practices record would actually make that effort? Not going to happen.
So the bigger question: Why are the black dolls not selling?
Lisa Wade, an assistant sociology professor at Occidental College in Los Angeles and the founder of the blog Sociological Images, suggested to ABC News that even the most equality-minded white parents are less likely than black parents to buy a doll of another race.
Conversely, Sociological Images co-author Gwen Sharp, a sociology professor at Nevada State College, thinks that African-American parents are not buying the darker-skinned dolls because they simply don’t look African-American. While the skin tone has changed, the doll still looks to be of European descent.
“Maybe for both parents and kids, it seems more real and less symbolic of a change to have a doll that actually presents a range of attractive features rather than ‘Oh we’ve changed the skin tone slightly,'” Sharp said.”
If the Sociological Images profs are correct, parents and kids look for dolls that mirror their own images, and girls of African descent are just not finding them.
What do you think? Do you solely buy dolls that look like you? Have you bought your kid a doll of another ethnicity?